Virus Alert: Beware Email Scam About Fake Court Cases

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on January 17, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A new email scam is popping up in inboxes nationwide, including in Minnesota. The phony emails purport to come from federal and state courts, but when opened, they infect recipients with computer viruses.

In particular, the emails instruct recipients to make a court appearance at a specific day and time. The emails also instruct recipients to review an attached document for detailed case information.

The U.S. District Court of Minnesota issued a warning about this scam on Christmas Eve, when we were all busy catching up on our holiday reading.

Widespread Email Scam

Although it's currently unclear whether anyone in other states within the Eighth Circuit have fallen victim to the scam, several other state courts have reported similar schemes, so everyone is cautioned to remain vigilant.

Unless you are actively involved in a case in federal court and have consented to receive court notifications electronically, you generally will not be served with court documents electronically, according to the alert.

If you receive an email regarding a federal court case or matter of which you are unaware, you should contact the named federal court before opening any attachments or links.

If an email looks a bit suspicious but piques your interest, do not open the attachment. If it's tied to the scam, when you open the attached document, "it downloads malicious code and makes the computer vulnerable to being controlled by a third party," according to a scam alert from the Administrative Office of Courts in Montgomery, Alabama.

Sample Scam Message

According to, the body of the email will look something like this:

Notice to Appear,

Hereby you are notified that you have been scheduled to appear for your hearing that will take place in the court of [court name] on [some date] at [some time].

Please bring all documents and witnesses relating to this case with you to court on your hearing date.

The copy of the court notice is attached to this letter. Please read it thoroughly.

Note: If you do not attend the hearing, the judge may hear the case in your absence and [some type of threat of action (jail, fines, etc.)].

Yours truly,

Clerk of the Court

Arbitrarily Sent

Fortunately, the emails seem to have been sent arbitrarily and have nothing to do with pending cases, reports the New York Daily News. Unfortunately, opening the attachments could expose recipients to having their passwords and files stolen.

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